Tile: Everything there is to know about tile.

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How to Install Tile?

The plans have been approved and the layout drawn up. The tiles have been chosen and bought. All that needs to be done is install the tiles.

Tile installation can be a daunting proposition. There are tools, methods, techniques and materials; the combination of which will be determined by the complexity of the task.

Tile installation covers 3 basic steps: surface preparation, installation and grouting.

Before commencing, the proper tools and equipment must be ready. Tiling tools and accessories are specialized depending on the bathroom or kitchen layout and fittings. For surface preparation, floor scrapers and razor blades are clear dirt particles, clean and smoothen the areas where tiles will be laid.

Tiles are manufactured in standard sizes such as 4” x 4,” 6” x 6” and 8” x 6” cuts. It is inevitable that tile must be cut to fit certain angles, shapes and corners. Tile cutting tools include hand jamb saws, electric saws, nippers, hacksaws, and diamond drill bits, scribing knives, chisels and tile nippers. Tools are also necessary to handle grout, that gritty cement mixture between the tiles. Some tile grouting tools are grout floats, grout sponge, bags, sealer applicators, margin trowel grout float, caulking gun, brushers and scrubbers.

Bathrooms and kitchen tiling will normally use the “thin set” method. Thin set means the surface is prepared with either concrete, drywall, backer board or plywood before the tile is directly bonded to it. A prerequisite for the thin set method is a clean, flat, level surface that can hold framing supports.

A substrate support is also needed when preparing a wall surface for tiling. Gypsum board or drywall, backer board, plywood and mortar are the common substrate support options. Gypsum and backer board are used for walls while laminated plywood is for floors and counter. Both are water resistant.

Backer boards can be used for walls, floors and even counter tops. These cementation boards are reinforced with fiber or glass mesh to increase structural strength. Mortar is the most versatile and reputedly the best substrate support surface for all stone and ceramic tiles. Mortar is composed of a measured mixture of sand, water and hydrated lime.

With the surface prepared, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. Depending the layout, sizes and shape of the tiles, select a location to begin. With a ruler, measure the height and width of the tile borders and mark them with a pen or colored pencil. The tile borders include the size of the tiles and the joints.

Clean the areas again to be sure there are no stray dirt particles. Dry fit or dry lay the tiles to get the number of full sized tiles to cover the area. This will minimize the need to cut partial sized tiles to cover the remaining area. Mark the tiles at the back that need cutting. For walls, rule supports are placed at the bottom so that the tiles will be placed from the bottom going upwards.

Prepare the recommended adhesive or tile cement. The instructions of the adhesives manufacture must be followed so that the proper adhesion is achieved. Adhesives will either be cement slurry, thin set or mastic. Slurry or wet-set, is a mixture of sand or cement and water to a consistency thick enough to be scooped by a trowel. Thin set, or Portland cement mortar is the most popular kind of tile adhesive manufactured today. It is cement, sand and methylcellulose, the additive that helps bond the tile to the substrate. Thin set is available either as latex Portland cement mortar or dry-set Portland cement mortar. The addition of latex increases bonding ability, water resistance and hastens drying times. Mastic is an organic adhesive for walls and floors. It bonds the tiles directly to the substrate. Type I is for either wet or dry walls or floors. Type II mastic is generally for dry walls only.

A notched or toothed trowel will make sure that there are no gaps between the tile and either the floor or wall. Use the trowel to apply the mixture to the wall or floor and spread it out evenly.

Lay the first tile. Maintain the thickness of the tile cement as you lay the second, third, etc. Continue laying down the remaining tile by rows until the entire area is covered. One option is to begin at the center and work outwards. Spacers can be placed between the tiles so that the gaps for grouting are even.

For the remaining space, use a manual or electric tile cutter or saw to cut the desired shape. Keep the work area clean by periodically brushing off extra thin set adhesive bits and other particles. You may use a grout sponge or knife to scrape out thin set that has spilled out from the joints and place them in a bag. Allow the tiles to set and dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually overnight.

The grouting process is next. The spacers can be removed from the tiles. Prepare the grout mixture according to the manufacturer’s specifications. The homogeneous mixture should have a consistency resembling peanut butter. Use a grout float to spread the grout between the joints and press it down between the tiles. Spread the grout float in all directions to make sure that all the joints are filled.

Grouting needs patience and accuracy so work at small areas at a time to maintain control. Grout also dries or cures once it is applied so it must be tooled immediately into the joint. Systematically grout the area in the order that the tiles were laid out.

Sweep diagonally across the joints to wipe away any excess grout so the joints look smooth. Allow the grout to dry for about half an hour to an hour before using a damp grout sponge to wipe away any grout residue from the tile surface area. A Popsicle stick can be used to give the grout a final push into the joints. The objective is to produce a uniform, even finish without any gaps, voids or pinholes.
Leave the grout overnight to dry and set properly. Buff the tiles the following day with a dry cloth.

After three to four days, seal the grout to give the tiles better resistance to moisture, mildew, grease and dirt. Sealers are two kinds: 1) membrane forming and 2) penetrating. Membrane forming sealers create a water-resistant nonporous veneer over unglazed tiles. This topical sealer works best for shower floor areas to discourage the growth of molds and mildews. As the name suggests, latex or silicone sealers penetrate the grout at a microscopic level, filling the tiny pores and solidifying there. This kind of grout sealer protects against moisture but can darken the natural color of the grout.

Grout sealers applied to the joints can be silicone, acrylic, latex or water-based. Any stray sealant that falls on the tile surface must be immediately wiped clean before a slight haze can form over the tiles.

This completes the basic tiling process. Fixtures, connections and accessories may now be installed.


1 Comment»

  Karmza wrote @

Hi, i been reading about the technic you just mention on how to tile, but now im confused as to whether I should do some measurements that will guide me as to how lay my first tile, if so can you please explain to me as to how to do it?

Thank you for your time.

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